Information and Social Norms: Experimental Evidence on the Labor Market Aspirations of Saudi Women
46 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2020 Last revised: 18 Aug 2021
Date Written: January 2020
How important are social norms, information gaps and family constraints in explaining the low rates of female labor force participation (FLFP) in conservative societies? To answer this question, we conducted a field experiment embedded in a survey of female university students at a large public university in Saudi Arabia. We randomly provided one subset of individuals with information on the labor market and aspirations of their female peers (T1), while another subset was provided with this information along with a prime that made their parents more salient (T2). We find that expectations of working among those in the Control group are quite high, yet students underestimate the expected labor force attachment of their female peers. We show that social information matters: relative to the Control group, expectations about own labor force participation are significantly higher in the T1 group, which is driven primarily by receiving information about their peers’ aspirations. We show that T2, as intended, causes students to report a higher importance of parents’ approval of their choices. However, we do not find that the impact of information is counteracted by evoking parental expectations: impacts for the T2 group on labor market expectations are not smaller than those for T1 group. However, T2 does lead to higher expectations of working in Education and the Public sectors - sectors that are more socially acceptable for women, suggesting that parental expectations their daughters’ labor market aspirations but partly shape them.
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